Head south-east out of central Taipei for a short 20 minute drive, and you’ll be in the foothills of Wenshan district, which offers much more than gondolas and tea. With historical towns, trails that seem to never end, night markets, and well-hidden spaces, Wenshan is a quirky respite from Taipei city life that offers plenty without sacrificing convenience. In fact, my love for Taiwan started here almost 6 years ago when I first arrived, and it’s all thanks to a number of hidden gems I’ve found while moseying about understated Wenshan. Continue reading
There’s much to love about central Zhongshan, and it isn’t just because it once was Taipei’s centre for business and pleasure. Glamorous hotels, international dining, and large shopping centres may still grace the district, but it is the winding alleys full of boutique stalls and cafes that make this place perfect for a day of moseying about. From Japanese sites of yesteryear, to hidden hubs of art and entertainment, Zhongshan can cater to all interests. Here’s my top 10 alternative spots of areas predominantly west of Zhongshan and Shuanglian MRT station.
In a quiet alley of Shida University district, there’s a shop that sells congee and ‘convenience’ noodles (方便麵). A single man in his 50s has been dolling these bowls of comfort food for years. But his business may not last much longer.
“The rent is getting heftier and heftier each year. Many stores have moved on and it may soon be my turn.”
I respond with a sad smile. The demand for larger western-style eateries come with the increasing international crowd. But what would local student life be, without slurping a bowl of heart-warming congee after a late night of study?
At first look, Prince Hotel (太子大飯店) is not pretty at all. Fluorescent lights alongside chandeliers, a red counter to a green backdrop. The lounge in the corner is a couple of coffee tables and chairs, half of which are being used as a makeshift nail salon. Not far from its entrance are large signs quoting hourly prices. A telling sign of the kind of place, I have just stepped into. Continue reading
I stirred awake, not knowing what time it was but realising I had woken up to the crowing sound of a rooster and the crack of dawn peeping through our bedroom window. Continue reading
Giovanni and Coco Filippini greeted me with an ice-cold bottle of San Pellegrino bubbly water as I sat in their kitchen. Still dripping with hot sweat, I could already tell it was worthwhile taking a trip in the unforgiving heat for another visit to the island’s most underrated Italian restaurant. Continue reading
Ill and feeling sorry for myself, I went to my usual haunt for some comfort food. My small appetite fostered wistful thoughts for the owner.
“Your twenties and thirties are the prime of life – even when you’re not well. I used to spend all night out with mates, then work the next day feeling wrecked. But I could still do it. Nowadays my health is gone and all I have is this shop.”
Taking a moment to appreciate his words, I suddenly felt better. I finished my delicious congee, thanked him, and left to make the most of my prime.
One morning I found myself rising before the sun. Restless, I headed to a breakfast shop. It’s open from 3am everyday, offering handmade soy milk, buns and most importantly, you tiao (油條).
“They’re available from 5am only”, the owner said, as her trained hands rolled and cut dough. Bleary-eyed, I waited for breakfast and the sun.
True to her words, she placed the blistering curlers in front of me at 5am sharp. I hastily dunk them in my accompanying savoury soy milk. With every mouthful, the satisfying crunch and streaming hot liquids shook me awake. Far better than coffee ever did.